Content Detail

Hardhack or Steeplebush spirea is a colony-forming native shrub found in acidic, boggy areas. It prefers a cool climate in the upper Midwest. All parts of the plant have a hairy, rusty appearance. It is best used in sunny, wet landscapes. It can be purchased through local native plant nurseries.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Sandy soil
  • Tolerances Wet sites
  • Season of interest late summer, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast

Size and form:

An upright, leafy shrub reaching three to four feet high with a suckering root system that forms large colonies.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is found in boggy, acidic soils, in wet prairies and along stream banks and lakes in Northern Europe and Midwest U.S., including northern Illinois C-Value: 9

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

This shrub attracts birds, butterflies and bees.

Bark color and texture:

It has slender gray twigs covered in whites hairs. The older stems are reddish with peeling bark and white lenticels.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Hardhack has alternate, narrow, lanceolate leaves up to three inches long and a half inch wide. The upper surface is medium green and slightly hairy, the underside is densely hairy and rusty brown.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The dense, hairy, terminal clusters (panicles) of pink flowers are up to six inches long. Each flower has five pink petals and pink stamens.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The follicles are upright and the fruit ripens in fall and persist throughout winter.

Plant care:

The cultivar grows best in full sun in wet to moist conditions. It is soil pH adaptable but, best in acidic sandy soils. Prune to control the overall size.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance:

Hardhack can get leaf spots, mildew, and chlorotic symptoms in high pH soils. It is deer resistant.


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